Many Washington State legislators were elected courtesy of the Koch Brothers. In particular, Andy Hill and Steve Litzow squeaked by in 2010 via attack ads funded by the Koch brothers’ Americans for Prosperity.
The State Republican Party was later fined for violating election reporting requirements in that election.See
State Republicans fined for violating reporting requirements in 2010 elections.
I-1329 failed to make it to the ballot. I can’t say that I am surprised or even disappointed.
It is certainly true that we need to undo the damage to democracy inflicted by dozens of Supreme Court decisions over the past hundred years or more, including recent decisions such as Citizens United and McCutcheon. MoveToAmend (MTA) has proposed a Constitutional Amendment that has been introduced in Congress as HJR 29. I wholeheartedly believe that this language is the best of all the proposals currently under consideration. David Cobb of MTA told me personally that he would not support any of the other proposed amendments, because they were all in some way flawed.
That’s why I am surprised that David Cobb and the rest of the folks at MoveToAmend decided to support an initiative in Washington State (I-1329) that purported, yet failed, to fully address the issues of corporate personhood and money as speech.
For example, HJR 29 states: “The rights protected by the Constitution of the United States are the rights of natural persons only.”
I-1329 Section 3 stated: “The rights of people protected by the Constitution of the United States are the rights of natural persons only.” (Emphasis added.)
The language in I-1329 was flawed in the same way that the 14th Amendment is flawed, because lawyers could argue that corporations are people, so corporations have the rights of natural persons. The language in HJR 29 does not have this “circular logic” flaw which in the case of the 14th Amendment has been exploited by corporate lawyers for generations.
Regarding money as speech, HJR 29 states “The judiciary shall not construe the spending of money to influence elections to be speech under the First Amendment.”
I-1329 did not contain this language in Section 3; therefore, it failed to address fully the issue of money as speech. The initiative danced around this issue in earlier sections, but just like a resolution, it doesn’t much matter what you say in the “whereas” clauses; it’s the “be it resolved” sentences that really matter, and in the case of I-1329, Section 3 is the “be it resolved” section.
So what, you may ask, did I-1329 resolve to do? It would have called for a Constitutional amendment allowing federal and state governments to place limits on campaign contributions and requiring disclosure thereof. Don’t get me wrong. I think this is a good idea. It would restore the constitutionality of limits on campaign contributions such as those imposed by the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA) as amended in 1974 and in the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA, aka McCain-Feingold Act) of 2002. But really all this does is set the clock back a couple of decades. Do any of us really believe that money did not unduly influence politics in 1974, much less 2002?
The real core of the problem lies in the need to reverse a nearly 200 year history of the Supreme Court granting constitutional rights to artificial entities (such as corporations). The amendment suggested in I-1329 would not have addressed this problem any more effectively than current efforts in Congress to pass the similarly limited Udall Amendment (S.J. Res 19) and House companion, the Deutch Amendment (H.J. Res 119). Both of these proposals would allow limits to be imposed on campaign contributions without addressing the elephantine issue of corporate constitutional rights. Worse, such proposals, if passed, would be praised as “overturning Citizens United”, and greeted with banners proclaiming “MISSION ACCOMPLISHED”, meanwhile killing any real chance of preventing plutocratic control of our republic, and spelling the end of the American experiment in representative democracy.
Interesting side-bar: MTA has called for S.J. Res 19 and H.J. Res 119 to be amended to state conclusively that corporate entities are not entitled to constitutional rights and to establish that spending money is not a protected form of speech. I find this strange since they did not call for I-1329 to include this essential language.
In conclusion, I would like to add that the efforts to get I-1329 on the ballot in Washington were doomed not because the bar is set too high for the number of signatures required, but because the organization leading the signature gathering efforts, known as WAmend, misunderstood the goals of the movement to end corporate personhood, misrepresented the proposed legislation as being something that it patently was not, and through oppressive behaviors alienated many who would otherwise have supported signature gathering efforts.
The clearest example of this is the wrong-headed missive I received from WAmend announcing that they planned to start using paid signature gatherers and asking for donations to cover the cost–with donations to be matched by an outside, unnamed entity. In the days and weeks that followed, WAmend precipitously backed off from this position and ended the campaign by trumpeting the righteousness of a campaign that relied only on volunteers to collect signatures. Too bad they did not understand the people power aspect of the movement when they started the campaign. Perhaps, if they had, they would have been more successful.
|For Immediate Release:
Drawing on the revolutionary spirit of Independence Day, DemocracyMovement organizers arecalling for a week of creative, artful rebellion against the corrupting influence of money in politics. In the week of July 4th to July 12th activists around the country will stage rebellious actions to showcase a movement ready to overthrow corporate rule and reclaim the promise of government of, by, and for We the People.
“We are fighting for the very self-evident, endowed by creator, unalienable rights celebrated on this anniversary of the Declaration of Independence,” said Bill Moyer, Executive Director of the Backbone Campaign. “Those long ago affirmed rights and principles are incompatible with the corrosive ideas of corporate personhood and the subsequent rights being claimed for corporations, investors, and capital itself. The result isthat we are reducing everything and everybody else to commodities,including our planet, our democracy, and life itself. The RollingRebellion is calling for nothing less than a non-violent, second American Revolution against oligarchic power and the corporations that that oligarchy hide behind,” concluded Moyer.
Four years since the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizen’s United brought down the barriers to corporations buying American elections, a strong and broad based movement has emerged to challenge oligarchic rule. And as the influence of big money and corporate power grows, with April’s McCutcheon V. FEC ruling continuing to dismantle limits on campaign spending, the creativity, resolve and ranks of the Democracy Movement are growing as well.
The “Rolling Rebellion For Real Democracy” plans to use creative tactics like street theater,puppetry and light projection to showcase the breadth and diversity of this movement. From New Hampshire to Seattle activists are planning events to showcase the national movement and advance local campaigns.
“Our movement is diverse, but we all agree that a crisis of Democracy is atthe root of our problems and it’s time to solve it,” said Kevin Zeese,an organizer with Popular Resistance. “Inspired by America’s pre-revolutionary roots we recognize both the need to protest rule of the wealthy and to create real democratic alternatives from the ground up,” added Margaret Flowers, also with Popular Resistance.
In Denver, Colorado activists armed with prop torches and pitchforks will converge on the State Capitol to drive out “Corporate Persons” in a display of popular revolt.
Activists in Lexington Kentucky will march from the Estate of Henry Clay to the Estate of Mary Todd, giving public readings of the Declaration of Independence and Amendments to the U.S.Constitution, and holding a teach-in about efforts to Amend the constitution to declare that Corporations do not have the same rights as people.
Seattle, Washington activists will stage a street performance and procession featuring giant puppets of a “Corporoctopus” and Lady Liberty. Organized by WAmend, Washington’s Move to Amend Chapter, the event will kick off the next phase of the campaign to pass a ballot initiative directing the Washington Congressional Delegation to work towards a constitutional amendment declaring that Corporations do no thave the same rights as people.
Progressive talk radio host and prolific author Thom Hartmann outlines the structural roots of historic financial crashes and explains why the worst is yet to come. Tying this to the decline of the middle class and record wealth disparity he makes the connection of why the current national movement for a constitutional amendment to overturn Supreme Court rulings that corporations are persons, entitling them to buy elections and run our government is a necessary step before real economic and political reform can happen. Washington State is leading the nation with a ballot initiative campaign [I-1329] to direct the state congressional delegation to vote for such an amendment. Signature gathering is ongoing now and your support is needed. See: http://www.wamend.org/ Thom Hartmann is the author of 24 books, the latest of which is The Crash of 2016: The Plot to Destroy America–and What We Can Do to Stop It. Watch Pirate Television in King County channel 29/77 Mondays 8-9pm, Thurs. 1-2pm, & Sun. 1-2am PST or streaming live on Seattle Community Media. Pirate TV streams several times a week on Puget Sound Access. Pirate TV also broadcasts on Free Speech TV: Details listed in FStv Schedule. See also: FStvPirateTV Website, Pirate TV Archive: www.PirateTVSeattle.com
More information about this show available at: Seattle Community Media
This movie is part of the collection: Seattle Community Media
Producer: Pirate TV Seattle
Creative Commons license: Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 4.0 International
New, alternative lyrics for Leonard Cohen’s “Democracy is coming, to the USA” (see videos below)
Lyrics © Donald A. Smith D G D It's coming from corruption that's profane D A D From Grover Norquist's government-hating brain G It's coming from the spiel G_sus G That makes your head reel D G D when you listen to the right wing refrain. F# From the Tea Party crazies Bm From the Chamber of Commerce hacks F# From neocon imperialists Bm From Karl Rove's Super-PAC A G D Plutocracy is comin, to the USA. --------------------------------- D G D It's coming from tax cuts for the rich, D A D From the Supreme Court, the 1%'s bitch. G It's coming from evil folk G_sus G like David and Charles Koch D G D and from Bill and Barry's traitorous rightward switch. F# From Citizen United Bm From Clarence Thomas's smut F# From John Robert's smirk Bm From Anton Scalia's butt A G D Plutocracy is comin, to the USA. --------------------------------- D G D It's coming from the wars. Open your eyes. D A D Killed millions. Wasted trillions. Hear the cries. G From the disaster in Vietnam G_sus G to the debacle of Afghanistan D G D to the war in Iraq based on lies. F# From the CIA's dirty deeds Bm From collateral clone attacks F# From targeted assassinations Bm From illegal wire taps A G D Plutocracy is comin, to the USA. --------------------------------- A G Bail out, bail out, D G D O sinking Ship of State! A To the Shores of Greed G Past the Reefs of Need D To the Squalls of Hate. A G D Bail out, bail out, bail out. --------------------------------- D G D It's coming from your neighbor's SUV D A D From the toxins that are killing off the bees. G It's coming from Big Oil, G_sus G and the fracking and the spoil D G D and climate change denial fantasies. F# From ugly suburban sprawl Bm From filthy factory smoke, F# From the local big box mall Bm From David and Charles Koch A G D Plutocracy is comin, to the USA. ------------------- D G D It's coming from right-wing media hosts D A D From the wingnuts with their hate-filled posts. G It's coming from Fox News G_sus G and its pro-corporate views D G D that are unfair and unbalanced at most. F# From Limbaugh and Glenn Beck Bm From Bill O'Reilly's rants F# From Hannity and Savage's drek Bm From Dennis Miller's cant A G D Plutocracy is comin, to the USA. --------------------------------- D G D It's coming from income inequality, D A D From tax loopholes for Apple and GE. G It's coming from tax havens G_sus G and accounting tricks so brazen D G D it's a wonder they're not on TV. F# From low capital gain tax rates Bm From Walmart and Goldman Sachs F# From Boeing and Microsoft Bm From tax enforcement cutbacks. A G D Plutocracy is comin, to the USA.
Here are two versions of Leonard Cohen’s original song.
I signed a petition from Credo Action “urging PBS affiliate WGBH to remove David Koch from the Board of Trustees and Science Visiting Council because of his anti-science positions.” After I signed the petition, it through up a fund-raising appeal from ActBlue containing the following claim:
The Koch brothers spent over $400 million in 2012—more than twice as much as the 10 largest unions combined.
Their network of shadow groups are pushing a radical right-wing agenda that is anti-healthcare, anti-climate science, and anti-worker—An agenda is designed to prop up big corporations and keep working people down.
I certainly oppose the Koch brothers and their toxic ideology but I’m curious about the highlighted claim, and I think that ActBlue should document such claims on their webpages.
In a HuffPost article Unions Gearing Up To Spend Big In 2012 Elections, it says ” Unions are gearing up to spend more than $400 million to help re-elect President Barack Obama and lift Democrats this election year in a fight for labor’s survival.” That article may in fact be consistent with Act Blue’s claim that the 10 largest unions spent less than $200 million: it’s possible that hundreds of unions contributed to the total near $400 million. Or it’s possible that the HuffPost article is wrong, and the total was less than $400 million.
But an article in The Nation, The Koch Brothers Spent Twice as Much on the 2012 Election as the Top Ten Unions Combined, gives more insight and substantiates Act Blue’s claim. Specifically,
For the last election, Koch PACs spent $4.9 million in disclosed contributions (figures that appear on the chart referenced by Strassel). But they also spent over $407 million on undisclosed campaign entities, which does not show up in the CRP chart.
All NRLB-regulated unions, on the other hand, disclose every outside payment…. The money Koch spends as a corporate entity, as it has in the past, may have gone unreported.
Wednesday evening I went to a meeting of eastside MoveToAmend activists, in Bellevue. Attendees discussed plans in place to collect signatures for I-1329, the initiative in support of an amendment to the US Constitution overturning the Citizens United Supreme Court decision that treats corporations as people and money as speech.
Once the Secretary of State’s office approves the wording of the petition (expected any day), signature gatherers have until June to collect 360,000 signatures. Then the initiative would appear on the ballot in November.
Unlike the case for some signature gathering campaigns, MoveToAmend Washington plans to use volunteer signature gathering. Someone said that Tim Eyman paid $8 per signature for his last, failed, initiative campaign.
Since the eastside of Seattle has about 8% of the state’s population, signature gatherers here should gather at least 8% of 360,000, or about 30,000 signatures — preferably more, since this part of the state has more concentrated population and more progressive voters than the eastern part of the state.
The webpage for WAmend is http://www.wamend.org/. The full text of the initiative is here. Here is a summary, and the here is the concise description submitted to the Washington State Secretary of State.
The initiative, I-1329, is only advisory: its purpose, as I understand it, is to pressure the legislature into supporting an amendment to the US Constitution. But first Congress has to propose and amendment and send it to the states.
As it says in the FAQ for MoveToAmend,
An amendment [to the US Constitution] has to be proposed either by a 2/3 vote of both houses of Congress, or else by a constitutional convention convened when the legislatures of 2/3 of the states so request. The amendment has to be ratified either by the legislatures of 3/4 of the states, or by conventions in 3/4 of the states, depending on which means of ratification Congress proposes.
There are in fact, several competing proposed amendments to overturn Citizens United (see this discussion). Most of the amendments give Congress the power to regulate campaign spending. Not all of them overturn corporate personhood and not all of them clearly state that money is not speech.
In 2013, the state House passed HJM4001, “Requesting an amendment to the United States Constitution to return the authority to regulate election campaign contributions to congress and state legislatures.” But its counterpart in the state Senate, SJM 8002, died due to Republican control of the Senate. Two previous resolutions were also introduced in the state legislature.
For a nationwide list of resolutions in legislatures see here.
After the meeting, I spoke with Jay Heyman, one of the MoveToAmend activists. I wanted him to address my doubts about the effort.
Is the effort not hopeless, I asked, given the high bar (3/4 of state legislatures agreeing) and the control by Republicans of many state houses? Even Washington State senate failed to pass a resolution.
Heyman said that even in conservative states like Montana, there has been overwhelming support among voters for amending the Constitution to overturn Citizens United. Voters in both Montana (a red state) and Colorado (a purple state) approved initiatives by margins of over 70% (source):
“The results are pretty unequivocal that no matter if you’re a Democrat or a Republican or an Independent you’re pretty mad about Citizens United,” said Derek Cressman, who helped author both resolutions as vice president for state operations at the reform group Common Cause. “You know, Mitt Romney carried Montana with 55 percent of the vote, and 75 percent of the vote in Montana called for this amendment.”
Sixteen state have formally called for an amendment, in the form of either a legislature’s resolution or a citizen initiative.
Apparently, neither Montana’s nor Colorado’s legislature has passed a resolution in support of an amendment.
On the other hand, even if the states (including Washington) pass a resolution like I-1329, it will have no legal, constitutional effect. Congress must first propose an amendment, by 2/3rd majorities in both houses. Then it takes 3/4 of the states to ratify a concrete amendment proposed by Congress. A legislature’s resolution is like a “letter to Santa Claus” — albeit a convincing letter — asking Congress to propose an amendment. And so, if the voters approve I-1329, that will be like a letter to Santa Claus’s elves asking them to write a letter to Santa Claus, since the legislators can ignore the initiative. Thus:
I said to Mr. Heyman: even if the voters state their preference for an amendment, mightn’t the Republicans in the legislature just ignore that, the way they have ignored calls for gun control?
I can just picture conservative Rep. Pam Roach laughing as she votes against the resolution, with her hand fondling the gun in her purse.
Heyman replied: gun control is a special, weird case, with the NRA having a lot of power.
Heyman said that if the initiative goes on the ballot, almost certainly voters will approve it. And if not enough signatures are gathered, well, not all is lost; it will still raise awareness.
I suggested that if the voters approve the initiative and the legislators continue to refuse to support an amendment, that could be used as ammunition against them in re-election campaigns.
Heyman mentioned that the resolution to overturn Citizens United came close to passing in the state legislature. So I asked: Instead of working your butts off to gather signatures, why not work towards defeating Rodney Tom and other Republicans and conservative Democrats, so that we have more progressive representation in Olympia?
Heyman responded: well, we should do that too: both oppose bad legislators and work to amend the Constitution.
Heyman said that he’s lost faith in the Democratic Party; it’s not serving the people. Another attendee at the meeting expressed her disillusionment with President Obama.
I suggest: if the Democratic Party actually held politicians accountable and showed some backbone, people might be more willing to get active in the party. Instead, as soon as someone proposes that the Party criticize or censure lawmakers who betray the party’s ideals, most Democrats shout them down with, “Are you crazy? Are you trying to aide the Republicans?” The state party platform is wonderfully progressive. All we need to do is hold lawmakers accountable to is. The fault lies both with the Democrats, who are too often sellouts, and with the disillusioned progressives who give up too easily. It will take a fight to kick out the corporatists. Bring it on! (though it’s ugly, unpleasant work)
I asked: isn’t there a time limit by which 3/4th of states have to approve the amendment? No, Heyman said; that applied only to the Equal Rights Amendment.
I think it would be a damn shame if signature gatherers come short of the 360,000 signatures needed for an initiative to appear on the ballot. So I will work to help them and I encourage you to, too.
I think people would be more willing to work if they understood that there is high likelihood of success. Specifically, will Republican-controlled legislatures in the South ever agree to support an amendment? Mightn’t they ignore the will of the voters and listen to money instead.
Money should not be speech in a legal sense. But it sure talks. I continue to think that the MoveToAmend leaders should clearly address such doubts.
I want to raise awareness and excitement about the Move to Amend movement, and I want to make it fun for signature gatherers. So I propose: a Move to Amend social dance (say, swing dance). Several MoveToAmend organizers said they’d support me if I worked on the project. Anyone else interested? If so, contact me at 206-819-5965 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Monday evening I went to a great Town Hall in Seattle with John Nichols and Robert McChesney. The topic was Dollarocracy: how money has corrupted politics.
Dollarocracy is their name for what’s become of America’s democracy. Instead of one person, one vote, we now have one dollar, one vote. Jimmy Carter was overheard saying that the US no longer has a functioning democracy. On an international rating of countries for the strength of their democracies, the US was rated at 8.1; anything below 8 is considered no longer to be democratic.
47% of Americans are now low-income or in poverty.
McChesney recalled the Powell Memorandum, written confidentially for the US Chamber of Commerce, that launched the plutocrats’ attack on the New Deal reforms. Lewis Powell was a tobacco industry lawyer and later a justice of the Supreme Court, appointed by Nixon. Powell should be considered the architect of dollarocracy. The plutocrats lamented that the US had too much democracy. McChesney said that Powell was obsessed with allowing corporate spending on elections. The Wikipedia article says:
This memo foreshadowed a number of Powell’s most notable[neutrality is disputed] court opinions, especially First National Bank of Boston v. Bellotti, which shifted the direction of First Amendment law by declaring that corporate financial influence of elections through independent expenditures should be protected with the same vigor as individual political speech. Much of the future Court opinion in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission relied on the same arguments raised in Bellotti.
In the 2012 election close to $11 billion was spent. A lot of it was “dark money” whose source is hidden. More money, better elections? Nah. Germany spends 1/34 the amount of money per capita as the US on campaigns.
McChesney said that $6 billion of the $11 billion was spent on (TV) ads. 90% of the ads were negative ads. Unfortunately, negative ads work. Those ads are illegal in most countries.
Media corporations benefit tremendously from spending on political ads. 15% – 45% of their revenue (profit?) comes from such spending.
While TV and radio stations receive a lot of money on campaign ads, they’ve cut back spending on journalism and analysis. There’s little objective campaign coverage. There’s been a “free fall collapse of real journalism.” Journalism has been replaced by propaganda. (McChesney paused and asked, “Are you depressed yet?”) Aside from that, the Republicans engage in vote suppression.
In the US voter turnout was 57.5 % during the 2012 presidential elections. In Germany it’s 72%. In Norway it’s 79%.
Still, McChesney said he’s the second most optimistic person in America. The most optimistic person he introduced: John Nichols.
Nichols gave the defeat of the GMO labeling initiative as an example of the workings of Dollarocracy. Democracy in the USA is in crisis. This country was founded with the original sin of slavery. Back then even most whites weren’t allowed to vote. Senators weren’t elected by the people. Nor were women allowed to vote. (Hard to imagine that women weren’t granted the right to vote until 1920.) Only the monied white guys could vote. Even Tom Paine got turned away from the vote.
We don’t want to be a monarchy. We wanted a democracy. Monarchies tend to be inbred. We don’t want to be ruled by the idiot son of an idiot. (laughter, cause guess who he was referring to?)
Nichols called on the audience to support the effort to amend the Constitution to declare that money is not speech and corporations are not people. Sixteen states have already formally called for such an amendment, and 500 communities. Even in Montana and Colorado 75% of voters voted for amendment.
The Constitution was not handed down from God to Michelle Bachmann. It was meant to be amended and we can do it again.
Nichols said he wants to hear no whining about the difficulty of doing this. As Leonard Cohen said, democracy is coming to the USA.
There was time for questions. I had wanted to ask, “Can the needed change come without bloodshed that accompanied the Civil Rights Movement and the Civil War?”
After recalling all the depressing ways our political system is corrupted by money, the speakers said that they are optimistic. John Nichols did a good imitation of Martin Luther King, peppering his speech with phrases like “Brothers and sisters.” Inspiring! At the end, Nichols got a standing ovation, during which he documented the event by taking photos with his smartphone.
Their talk is part of their speaking tour for the book Dollarocracy: How the Money and Media Election Complex is Destroying America. During the talk, while one of the authors was speaking to the audience, the other was checking his smartphone. At one point they mentioned that their book is #2 on the Amazon list of top-sellers in politics.